Friday, March 22, 2013

Beer Review: Kuhnhenn American Imperial Stout

Reviewing the American Imperial Stout from Kuhnhenn Brewing Company out of Warren, Michigan. This imperial stout was most recently released at Kuhnhenn's annual Winter Solstice party.
Score: 98

2012 vintage bottle served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 01/16/12. Shout out to Robbie Moy for hooking me up with this bottle!

Appearance: The body of the beer is black as ink with no transparencies (sorry, no ruby tones here) to speak of. Pours a thin layer of mocha-colored head that settles to a ring around the glass. Dare I assume that this Kuhnhenn beer has some carbonation!? Absolutely outstanding lacing and retention. Quite frankly, this is a beautiful looking beer. 5/5

Smell: Slightly sweet milk chocolate, roasty malt, fudge and a little caramel are my first impressions. A modest amount of fig and raisin and a little leather is present as well. Faint bitter/burnt coffee and bakers chocolate too. As the beer warms up and airates, a little more sweet dark fruit complexity and a touch of brown sugar come out as well. What an absolutely inspiring and complex imperial stout nose! It is sweet/bittersweet, and totally balanced. A dash of "woody" and pine hops are present in the nose, but it's perfectly incorporated. A faint hint of black licorice comes through at room temperature. 4.75/5

Taste: The taste is surprisingly different from the nose. The dark fruit and sweetness takes a backseat to the more roasty and bitter/bittersweet elements. Bakers chocolate and dark chocolate with a little burnt roast and "coffee breath"-like flavor are the boldest elements of the taste. A very faint amount of black licorice and a little non-sweet dark fruit follow the upfront bitter and dark chocolate flavors. Towards the finish, there is just a touch of sweet fig that rounds out the beer and adds balance to a bitter "upfront" flavor experience. Finishes with a nice roasty, slightly burnt (and ashy) cacao flavor. The beer is bitter/bittersweet. I am not detecting much, if any, hops in the flavor -- but they are not missed. As the beer warms up, a well-incorporated (a la Black Albert) cherry flavor starts to come through in the back half of the beer, in addition to a little more of the woody/ashiness in the finish. When the cherry comes through as the beer warms up, it loses a bit of its bitter edge and becomes more "balanced." Needless to say, this beer tastes as complex as it smells. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a perfect amount of "low carbonation" (versus Kuhnhenn's traditional "where's the carbonation"-type carbonation). Bitter/bittersweet on the palate. Finishes somewhat dry, but not chalky dry. 5/5

Overall: This is without a doubt one of the absolute best stouts that I have ever had. It is complex, flavorful and dynamic. The nose and taste have similar elements, but each is quite different in which characteristics shine. I love how the beer developed as it went from cellar temperature to room temperature, though I probably preferred it slightly more on the colder side of that scale. My only regret is that I only got one of these. I will have to seek out more.

Recommendation: Seek this beer out; it is one of the best imperial stouts you will find!

Pairings: A cigar.

Cost: $8 for a 12 oz bottle.

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